Return to Transcripts main page


Roy Moore Goes to Court; Trump Falsely Touts Record; Tillerson: Americans Should Be Proud; 40 Killed in Kabul Bombings. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 28, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:15] ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Roy Moore with an 11th hour lawsuit to block results of Alabama's special election. The result is supposed to be certified today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump with the big pat on the back for himself, but his claim of passing more legislation than any president since Trump doesn't exactly hold up.

KOSIK: And the secretary of state says changes at the State Department are showing results. We'll tell you what he said about the North Korea threat and potential of working with Russia.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik, sitting in for Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good morning. I'm Dave Briggs, Thursday, December 28th, 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Couple of weeks passed by still Roy Moore is fighting. His campaign filing a complaint overnight to delay today's planned certification of the special election results in Alabama. In a late night filing, Moore's campaign, quote, three so-called election integrity experts who believe voter fraud occurred there. The e-mail also says that Moore took a polygraph test, proving allegations of sexual misconduct derailed his campaign are false.

KOSIK: Moore lost the race to Democrat Doug Jones earlier this month. Moore has refused to concede. The Alabama secretary of state is scheduled to certify today unless the new court filing forces a delay. Jones is expected to be seated early next year, narrowing the Republicans' advantage in the Senate to just 51 to 49.

BRIGG: President Trump touting his legislative record but he might be giving himself a bit too much credit. In a surprise visit to a West Palm Beach firehouse, the president claimed he has signed the most legislation of any president. That claim doesn't quite pass the fact check. KOSIK: Oh, and for the 87th time since he was sworn into office, the

president got back on the golf course, not that we have to -- not that we could actually prove it, because what happened yesterday was a giant truck here that you see actually blocked reporters from capturing on camera his 87th day at one of his golf courses since taking office.

Let's get the latest now from CNN's Sara Murray from West Palm Beach, Florida.



Wednesday was another quiet one for President Trump on his vacation to Mar-a-Lago here in Florida, but he did make one surprise stop, visiting a local fire house to greet firefighters and tout his legislative achievements.

TRUMP: We have signed more legislation than anybody and broke the record of Harry Truman, and it was saying, if we get this big tax cut, that's the legislation of all legislations. It's the biggest there is. But it included ANWR as you know, and it included the repeal of the individual mandate, which is a disaster. That's where you have the privilege of paying a lot of money so you don't have to buy health insurance, the most unpopular thing, which most people thought should have been unconstitutional.

MURRAY: President Trump obviously riding this wave of victory after shepherding through a sweeping overhaul of the tax system. But as for the notion that he's been more productive in the White House than previous occupants, that one doesn't hold up to fact checks. In fact, President Trump has signed fewer bills in his first year in office than any administration dating back to Eisenhower.

Now, before he stopped at the firehouse, President Trump engaged in of his favorite activities on vacation, hitting the links and while CNN has been able to get pictures of him on the golf course in previous days, on Wednesday, it was a little bit tougher, a big white box truck suddenly appeared to block the shot, unclear who commissioned it, but not any pedestrian can just park there and we know that this is the White House that seems particularly sensitive for whatever reason about images of President Trump on the golf course.

Back to you, guys.


BRIGGS: All right. Sara Murray, thanks.

President Trump trying to bolster his claims of passing the most legislation of any president by setting his rollback of regulations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: So, a lot of the regulations were avoided. And now we can go back to work and do the job. In the case of builders and in case farmers and so many others, they can now go back to doing their jobs. We have the all-time record for stopping ridiculous regulations and we're very proud of that.


BRIGGS: As for that mysterious truck blocking the president's golf swing, well, a spokesperson for the Secret Service says the agency has nothing to do with it. The Palm Beach sheriff's office also denying any responsibility.

KOSIK: Did we see a close-up of the driver? Because the driver's sitting like this in the truck got his arm over his face. He doesn't --

BRIGGS: Does he have an MAGA on his hat?

KOSIK: I don't think he's wearing a hat. But he is covering his face. It's really funny.

All right. The IRS responding to the lines of people rushing to prepay their 2018 property taxes. Homeowners are trying to take advantage of a federal deduction on state and local taxes before it's scaled back under the new tax law.

The IRS says you can prepay, but, here's the thing, the payment may not be tax deductible. The agency released a statement saying this. State or local law determines whether and when a property tax is assessed which is generally when the taxpayer becomes liable for the property tax imposed.

So, the clarification, if you call it that, led to questions about whether local governments may have to refund millions of dollars to taxpayers, while some counties -- they have long allowed for prepayment, others are scrambling to ensure those who want to prepay can do so, even if the jurisdiction can't necessarily guarantee the prepayment will be deductible. The confusion comes as both the IRS and taxpayers are trying to determine what the biggest tax overhaul in three decades means to their bottom line.

BRIGGS: The brother of former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleading for a pardon from the president. Joseph Flynn replied to one of President Trump's tweets yesterday with this, about time you pardoned General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall for all of you given the illegitimacy of this confessed crime in the wake of all this corruption.

He then deleted the post shortly thereafter.

KOSIK: Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the former Russian ambassador during the transition. Flynn's brother is organizing a legal defense fund. About two weeks ago, President Trump told reporters he doesn't want to talk about pardons yet, adding, we'll see what happens. BRIGGS: Republican Congressman Francis Rooney walking back from

remarks very critical of the FBI and the Justice Department.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I'm very concerned that the DOJ and the FBI, whether you want to call it deep state or what, are kind of off the rails. I don't want to discredit them. I'd just -- I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it.


BRIGGS: Rooney's remarks echoing the sentiments of several other Republican Trump allies, ratcheting up the criticism of the FBI and Justice Department as the special counsel's investigation moves forward.

KOSIK: Rooney now says he shouldn't have used the word purge but maintains the FBI should oust anyone who is politically compromised.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Are you sure you want to be throwing a word like purge around?

ROONEY: Well, it might be a pretty strong word. I'm not maybe the most nuanced political person in the world coming from a career in business. But I'm pretty frustrated. As an American citizen, I'm nervous and discontent that people would have those kinds of lack of impartiality.


KOSIK: OK, to that, Rooney is talking about the FBI agent who was removed from the special counsel's team after it was found out he sent anti-Trump texts during the campaign.

BRIGGS: Now, California Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, telling CNN she found Rooney's comments frightening.


REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: I want to sit down and talk to him about the McCarthy era because I'm not sure if he remembers the Cold War. He's old enough to have. But, you know, the type of purges he's talking about harkens back to the Cold War when there was a purge by McCarthy to find communists that were hidden in the federal government. It sows distrust in our institution and I think it's irresponsible and maybe he needs a history lessen.


BRIGGS: Bass said it's very sad. Rooney and Republicans are, quote, laying the foundation for there to be mistrust in the process. Steve Bannon cutting ties with the far right activist challenging

House Speaker Paul Ryan for his House seat. The move comes after Paul Nehlen posted a number of controversial tweets. One revealing he's reading a book about Jewish culture widely considered to be anti- Semitic. Another tweet he used the hashtag it's OK to be white.

"Breitbart" has supported Nehlen in the past, but now, one of the advisers says he's, quote, dead to us. Paul Ryan beat Nehlen in a landslide 84 to 16 percent in 2016.

A new poll on America's most admired person likely to aggravate President Trump this morning, maybe not as much as last year. Seventeen percent of those polled name President Obama compared to 14 percent how named President Trump. The good news for the president, the gap narrows from seven points last year to three this year. When it comes to the most admired woman, Hillary Clinton remains the top spot for the 16th year running. Michele Obama comes in at second place at seven percent.

The highest ranking Republican woman though, Condoleezza Rice and Nikki Haley, both receiving 1 percent of the vote. Not sure what you make of the Republican side of that. Is Nikki Haley the frontrunner for the next Republican candidate, whenever Donald Trump exits the stage?

KOSIK: Certainly making headlines.

BRIGGS: She's well-respected, no question.

KOSIK: How about this for a twist? Russia is accusing the U.S. of interfering with its election. Yes, you heard right. Now the secretary of state with the revealing op-ed this morning discussing Russia and North Korea. We are live in Moscow.


[04:13:08] BRIGGS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says America should be encouraged by the progress the State Department has made in pushing for global peace and stability, especially when it comes to North Korea. And in a "New York Times" op-ed, he defends President Trump for abandoning what he calls the failed policy of strategic patience.

He says the U.S. and allies have cut off 90 percent of Pyongyang's export revenue, much of which goes to fund illegal weapons.

KOSIK: Tillerson writes: we hope that this international isolation will pressure the regime into serious negotiations on the abandonment of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. A door to dialogue remains open but we have made it clear that the regime must earn its way back to the negotiating table. Until denuclearization occurs, the pressure will continue.

Tillerson also says China should do more by putting more economic pressure on Pyongyang. BRIGGS: In his op-ed, Tillerson also says of Russia, quote: There are

no illusions about the regime and their meddling in our election and others. He says the relationship is poor but the nations need to work together where mutual interests intersect. This comes as Russia accuses the U.S. of -- wait for it -- meddling in its upcoming election. That's right.

Let's get to Fred Pleitgen live in Moscow with the latest.

So, now, we have interfered in Russian elections. Is that right, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's what the Russians are saying or at least the spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, was saying that yesterday. She believes some of the comments that were coming out of the State Department were what she called a direct meddling in Russia's election. It's question interesting, because this was a regular press statement that is often given by the State Department.

This was in regards to an opposition candidate Alexey Navalny being barred from running in the upcoming election and the State Department said, look, they're concerned about not all candidates being allowed to run here in Russia and that's why the spokeswoman for the foreign ministry said that. It is quite an interesting take, but it also comes within a barrage of criticism coming from the Russians towards the United States.

You were just mentioning that op-ed that Rex Tillerson just wrote. He was saying one of the areas he thinks there could be cooperation would be in Syria. He says that for instance, he believes that within the process we're trying to get peace, he believes it could be the end of the rule of Bashar Al-Assad.

Well, the Russians certainly see that very differently. They've propped Bashar al-Assad. He's stronger than he was at the beginning of this conflict. So, it certainly doesn't look as though they're going in the same direction, as far as that's concern.

At the same time, you have major criticism coming from the Russian chief of staff of the military who is accusing the United States of training former ISIS fighters at a base in southeastern Syria. It's called al-Tanf. The U.S. says yes, they do have a presence there. But they're actually doing is training moderate rebels to try and combat ISIS if in fact ISIS tries to get back to that area.

So, as you can see, there's been a lot of criticism coming from the Russians toward the United States over the past 24 hours or so. So, if Secretary of State Tillerson wrote that op-ed and he feels there will be cooperation from the Russians, it certainly is going to be a very, very tall task, at least from what we've been hearing over the past couple of hours, Dave.

BRIGGS: You got that right. Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Moscow -- thanks. KOSIK: All right. As for North Korea, the Trump administration is

planning to take a quieter tone to avoid antagonizing the rogue regime. A senior administration official telling CNN they plan to be more quiet and discrete about joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan. They're hoping this will help U.S. diplomats in ongoing talks to diffuse the crisis.

CNN's Barbara Starr has more from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. intelligence community, the U.S. military keeping a very sharp eye as always on North Korea. There are preliminary signs CNN has been told that the North again is moving equipment around.

Is it aimed at another upcoming ballistic missile test? Are the North Koreans preparing to launch a satellite on top of a rocket? Too early to say, we simply don't know.

Now, this comes at a very sensitive time. The Olympics in South Korea are coming up in the next several weeks. And the U.S. military is saying it will keep a more quiet view. It will not be talking so much about any upcoming training or exercises because of the sensitivities in the region.

Typically, the Pentagon talks about it, it wants North Korea to know that this is training that it is routine business, that these are not upcoming military operations. But the sensitivities in the region right now, the effort to get a diplomatic solution, is leading the Pentagon to pull back publicly on its own discussion about exercises. But now, it will be up to President Trump to decide whether he is going to take that line or he may once again engage in very aggressive public rhetoric about the North.


BRIGGS: All right. Some breaking news overnight: 40 people have been killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, 30 others were injured. The attack targeting a cultural center in Afghanistan's capital. According to Afghan officials, the initial bombing was followed by two more explosions, Taliban denies it is responsible.

KOSIK: If you're hanging out in the Northeast, Midwest, pretty much anywhere, California, Miami, you don't need me to tell you -- it's cold. It's not getting any warmer, at least not until 2018. The latest holiday forecast is next.


[04:22:23] BRIGGS: "Vanity Fair" fending off some fierce criticism after posting a video mocking Hillary Clinton. In the video, the editors of the magazine's Website Yves (ph) suggest New Year's resolutions for Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take more photos in the woods. How else are you going to meet unsuspecting hikers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take up a new hobby in the New Year. Volunteer work, knitting, improv comedy, literally anything that will keep you from running again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To finally put away your James Comey voodoo doll. Now, we all know you think that James Comey caused you the election, hey, he might have, but did a handful of other things. It's a year later and time to move on.


BRIGGS: Wow. The magazine released a statement saying the video was an attempt at humor. And Mr. Mark caused plenty of outrage outline, including actress Patricia Arquette who tweeted in part: stop telling women what the blank to do or can do.

KOSIK: OK. Almost 18 million people in the northeast under a wind chill alert. Wind chill alert, that sounds awful. And there won't be much relief to the bitter cold through the New Year.

Let's get the latest from meteorologist Derek Van Dam.

Good morning.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Dave and Alison.

New Yorkers know that Mother Nature means business when the fountain in Bryant Park freezes over like it has done this week. This is not the coldest air we'll experience over the next five days. There is actually a reinforcing shot of cold arctic air coming in just in time for New Year's Eve and then for New Year's Day.

We've had such cold temperatures that we have actually broken some record cold across the Midwest and the eastern half of the U.S. In fact, 30-plus record lows have been tied or broken within the past 24 hours. The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory and warnings for many locations, from upstate New York, right through New Hampshire and Maine.

Check out these temperatures tonight. We will drop for 10 degrees for Chicago. Thirteen for New York, 20 for Washington. Our daytime highs not much warmer, in fact barely making its way into the 20's today for St. Louis, New York in the teens, Washington at 27 degrees.

Back to you.


BRIGGS: All right. Thanks, Derek.

What looked like Christmas cash quickly turned to lumps of coal for lottery players in South Carolina. Lottery officials say a two-hour long computer glitch generated more winning tickets that the program should accommodate, forcing them to suspend Christmas Day payout. Words spread like wildfire Monday when person after person appeared to win the top prize of $500 bucks from the $1 terminal game. People holding winning tickets say they got error messages when trying to claim their prices.

[04:25:04] Lottery officials say they are reviewing the problem.

KOSIK: A lot of confusion there.

All right. A normal day expected at Disneyland after an outage left some visitors stranded during the busy holiday season. A transformer issue knocked out power to part of the park around 11:00 yesterday morning. The outage lasting five hours affecting about a dozen attractions.

I love this -- one man says he was on the "it's a small world" ride when the outage happened. The lights went out but he says that famous song played the entire 25 minutes he was stuck on the ride. He says he will likely be singing that song for the rest of next year.

You know how that song for the rest of next year. You know how that song gets stuck on your head.

BRIGGS: And will I. How does it go?

KOSIK: It's a small world after all --

BRIGGS: That is crucial and unusual punishment. No power and stuck with that song for 25 grueling minutes.

KOSIK: He's going that ride once and he stuck on the Internet.

BRIGGS: Stuck in mine and all of yours. You're welcome.

All right. Ahead, Roy Moore is still not conceding the Alabama Senate race. He's taking the issue to court, alleging voter fraud hours before the race was to be certified.


KOSIK: Roy Moore with an 11th hour lawsuit to block results of Alabama's special election. The result is supposed to be certified today.


TRUMP: We have signed more legislation than anybody and broke the record.